Feds Name 'Navigators' to steer residents through insurance marketplace

Andrew Kitchenman/NJ Spotlight
Friday, August 16, 2013

Representatives of the five organizations chosen to guide residents through the process of buying health insurance through the new federal marketplace or exchanges have less than seven weeks to get ready but vowed to be prepared.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday that the New Jersey groups would receive $2.02 million, part of $67 million in grants distributed to 105 applicants in states with federal marketplaces or federal-state partnerships.

States that are operating their own exchanges are drawing from a larger pool of money under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The organizations must be ready to help uninsured residents buy insurance starting October 1, when enrollment begins for coverage that will start on January 1, 2014.

The so-called “navigators,” who must undergo training, will help people with applications and take part in outreach and education efforts.

“We are prepared,” said Barbara Scholz of FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Inc., which received a grant for $137,217. She said her organization already has a program that reaches out to people in need to make sure they’re signed up for programs like the federal food stamp program and utility assistance, as well as disaster assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“There’s still a lot of families reeling” from the storm who could use help with health insurance, Scholz said, noting that the amount of food her organization distributes increased from 7 million pounds a year to 8.5 million pounds after the storm. She added that 40 percent of the people her organization serves have unpaid medical bills.

“If you can get health insurance, certainly that puts food on the table,” Scholz said.

The marketplace website will allow residents to buy insurance and also learn whether they are eligible for federal insurance subsidies. The law requires most uninsured people to get insurance, with those who choose not to have coverage required to pay the greater of $95 or 1 percent of their income in 2014, with the penalty rising to the greater of $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016.

Read more: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/08/15/feds-announce-navigators-to-steer-residents-through-health-insurance-marketplace/